Treating a traumatic brain injury is not so simple. There are many therapies that help people recover, but it could be many years before there’s any significant progress, and often there’s nothing to do. There’s a new concept in treating these injuries that might actually make a huge revolution in treatment – it’s called cybernetics, and it’s coming to a treatment facility near you.
The current process
There are about 1.5 million in the US who have a traumatic brain injury, and another 800,000 who have suffered a stroke, also considered a traumatic brain injury. This usually occurs when there is a strong blow to the head, but it can also happen when something sharp penetrates the brain.
These people often never get back to their original functioning, yet undergo many hours of therapy to improve whatever function they have. The process is often arduous and tedious, and progress is slow.
Usually, advances in stroke and traumatic brain injury treatments are all about types of therapy, from physical and occupational therapies to the more innovative robotic or electromagnetic therapies. These are often very effective for some types of people, but haven’t overly changed the approach to treating these types of injuries.
Bridging the gap
Something new in the arena may be a solution for more people suffering from traumatic brain injuries, and it’s already been effectively tested in lab animals.
A team of neuroscientists from Case Western University and the University of Kansas have created a cybernetic brain implant that works through a brain-machine-brain interface to bring messages from one part of the brain to another. The prosthesis gets implanted in the brain, and serves as a “bridge” between sections of the brain to transmit messages. It records messages from a healthy part of the brain, processes those messages, and stimulates a damaged part of the brain with the recording, which helps repair the brain. The way it works is that when the implant records the brain activity, it sends out impulses to train the other parts of the brain to function.
The combination of computers and brain function is called cybernetics, and it raises many social and ethical issues in terms of human enhancement. However, it shows great promise in the treatment of brain injury and will hopefully serve to help, rather than hinder, human progress.
In the tests, the implant was left in the brain for 2 weeks, and after that time, the rats regained all lost function. The researchers are hopeful about the potential for the same results in humans. The biggest question they have is whether the prosthesis will have to remain for the rest of the person’s life, or, mimicking the rat activity, they will be able to completely regain lost function and be able to continue without the implant.
At Hudson View Rehabilitation Center in Bergen County, New Jersey, we work with patients who have had a traumatic brain injury to recover in a warm and peaceful environment using the best and most advanced therapies available.